. . . .The $2.3 billion-a-year testing industry has been under intense strain because of the increase in testing under the five-year-old law. "The system is buckling under the pressure," Toch said. "The industry isn't keeping up."
Pearson has provided services for Virginia's online testing for several years, but this is the first year that it contracted for paper tests as well, said company spokesman David Hakensen. He said company officials were analyzing the cause of Tuesday's problems.
A flashing green traffic light on the state Education Department's Web site yesterday indicated that the system was operating smoothly. Department spokeswoman Julie Grimes said that by mid-morning, 66,000 online tests were underway with no problems.
Many testing administrators said they were thankful for a glitch-free day, adding that when the online tests work, they work really well. Video-game-trained teens prefer the computer format, they said, and test results come back much more quickly.
But frustrations have emerged in the past week.
At Massaponax High School in Fredericksburg, testing has been interrupted twice in recent days because of troubles with Pearson's online system. Nearly 200 students lost geometry or algebra tests last week, and 19 remain on standby to take an alternative test.
"Can you imagine?" said Massaponax Principal Joe Rodkey. "The whole school prepares for this. The teachers and the kids all year long, and we have all kinds of tutoring sessions just beforehand. . . . And they are all pumped and primed and ready to go, and then bam! the system goes down." . . .
And as we know, if they have to take the test next week, they will surely have forgotten most of what they "knew."
And now this new incident:
An online glitch interrupted state-required testing for 2,400 Virginia students for 20 minutes on Thursday afternoon, the third such mishap within a week, state education officials said.
Some local school officials said they will scrutinize test results to determine whether the series of interruptions took a toll on the scores.
"With a high-stakes test, there's a lot on the line. Kids get understandably upset if things get interrupted," said Wayde B. Byard, spokesman for Loudoun County Public Schools. "Down the road, we will have to look at the academic integrity of these tests."
Students this month are taking Standards of Learning tests that are used to determine whether schools comply with state standards and measure up under the federal No Child Left Behind law.
The federal law requires math and reading tests for students in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school. Schools face sanctions if they don't meet annual benchmarks and improve their scores over time. Virginia laws also require students to pass end-of-year high school exams to graduate.
State officials said technicians from the testing vendor Pearson Educational Measurement, based in Iowa, have worked long hours to respond to the problems. But the glitches have compounded stress for many students who prepare all year for tests and for administrators who must work overtime to schedule and reschedule exams. . . .
They call the test the SOL (Standards of Learning) in Virginia. Pearson has returned that acronym to its original meaning.